In more recent times, coercive control has been exposed as one of the more insidious abusive tactics employed by intimate terrorists. Survivors often refer to this kind of psychological abuse as ‘the worst part’ of an abusive relationship, and to some extent I agree. As a result of increasing awareness in this space, Australia’s attention has turned to the issue of whether to create specific criminal offences targeting these behaviours. This is not unprecedented – international jurisdictions like England, Scotland and Wales have had similar laws in place for some time.
Despite my desire for domestic abusers to be held accountable for the psychological torture they inflict upon their victims, I remain intensely ambivalent about the criminalisation of coercive control.Many Australian women are already criminalised for fighting back against abuse and I’m keen to ensure that we don’t create another arena wherein the law can be weaponised by perpetrators to further marginalise and punish genuine victims of domestic abuse.
The economic and personal cost of engagement in lengthy litigation as a victim or respondent is not insignificant, regardless of the jurisdiction. I cannot begin to count how many days of my post-separation life have been spent writing affidavits, reading court materials, attending appointments with police and lawyers, showing up to court and generally stressing about being embroiled in a legal proceeding. This represents significant time that I have had to take off work, but more importantly it was time when I was emotionally less available to my children, who also suffer when their parents are at legal loggerheads. This cannot be underestimated or ignored in our quest for a ‘just’ outcome.
[T]he proceedings of the Court were based on a history of illegal prescription and administration of sex hormones to an underage youth, for reasons that were not validated by international practice. It might be expected that such illegality would have been examined by the Court, but it was not. It was passed over: stated reasons were accepted without question and the father was virtually commended for his vigilance.
The father, however, had a long history of domestic violence, and the poor youth, Imogen, and her sister, had existed in turmoil, descending into mental illness. The psychiatrist for the mother who opposed the administration of cross-sex hormones maintained gender confusion was but a symptom that had emerged from a panoply of prior psychiatric disease. He advocated a year of psychotherapy. Despite there being no childhood indications, the father’s psychiatrist argued for the primacy of gender dysphoria. Justice Watts aligned with the argument for hormonal transgendering. In the process, his rejection of the ideas of the mother’s psychiatrist became more ad hominen.
Strangely, it does not appear the Court wondered at the influence of the father over his natal son. Sigmund Freud might have asked if conflict had been avoided by the natal son’s adoption of the opposite sex. The possibility that psychotherapy which might have explored and ameliorated such tensions has, however, been precluded by Justice Watt’s preference for hormonal action.
Interview with Charmaigne Weldon
My own experiences of domestic and family violence have given me a profound insight into how the direct harm of this violence can be compounded by later interventions, such as the removal of children from their communities. . . .
While many within government agencies may believe that sharing information about clients at risk may help to prevent domestic and family violence, this poses its own risks. In order to gain the trust of Aboriginal women and their families, maintaining and communicating respect for privacy are of fundamental importance. Without that trust, many domestic and family violence offences will go unreported. It is essential too that a WDVCAS operates as an autonomous women’s service of high integrity and not just as a handmaid to the police and other government agencies. . . .
High ethical standards, an understanding of our history, and sensitivity to our cultural protocols are profoundly important when working with Aboriginal women and gaining their trust; as is an awareness of their experience of repeated betrayals by white authorities. Closing the gap will first require breaking down problematic attitudes that currently discourage our women from engaging with services that could otherwise support positive changes in their family lives. . . .
As the recent protests have made clear, it is time the Australian Government explored other criminal justice models, such as the women’s police stations in South America and the less punitive Scandinavian prison systems which focus on restorative justice, for alternatives which do not destroy Aboriginal communities. To win the trust of Aboriginal women, services must acknowledge the wrongs of the past and show a commitment not to repeat them.
According to research by Domestic Violence NSW, nearly 50% of domestic violence workers said victim-survivors have delayed leaving a perpetrator by more than a year because of the difficulties leaving with an animal, and Women’s Safety NSW say that accommodation is a primary barrier.
Last year I held a roundtable in Parliament on domestic violence and animal abuse where we spoke with survivors, domestic violence services, animal welfare groups and enforcement agencies. One thing was clear – accommodation barriers had to be removed. Emergency housing is nearly impossible, with most refuges unable to provide animal accommodation, and for those that can afford to buy or rent, strata by-laws are creating dangerous impediments to those trying to find safety.
But there were also some new faces including top gong (Gold Ernie) going to Jayson Westbury, CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents who sickeningly suggested that Tracey Grimshaw deserved a “firm uppercut or a slap across the face” for her reporting of a travel industry refund scandal.
The Political Silver Ernie went to the previously mentioned, Senator Malcolm Roberts for his commentary on the family law system (and apparent defence of perpetrators of domestic violence) when he said:“But when you’re a father, and you can’t get access to your kids, and you can’t get access to the legal system properly, what else is there to do other than check out or hurt the other person?”
There was a dead heat for the Celebrity/Clerical Silver Ernie going to the Council of the Order of Australia for awarding Bettina Arndt an AM for her “significant service to the community as a social commentator, and to gender equity through advocacy for men”.
Ironically, Bettina Arndt was awarded her own Ernie (AKA ‘The Elaine for remarks least helpful to the sisterhood) for her commentary on the devastating murder of Hannah Clarke and her children in which she congratulated “the Queensland police for keeping an open mind and awaiting proper evidence, including the possibility that Rowan Baxter might have been ‘driven too far’.”
Unsurprisingly, Pauline Hanson stepped up for joint acquisition of ‘The Elaine’ for her comments as Deputy chair of the Family Court Enquiry, in which she suggested that women were fabricating stories of domestic violence:“A lot of the women out there abuse the system by instigating false DVOs against their former partners or their husbands. They use that to further their needs… Domestic violence orders have got completely out of hand”, she claimed.
And, in case these recollections aren’t enough to have you tearing your hair out to the point of baldness, let’s not forget the wonderful Shore school boys who also scored a Silver Ernie for their recent ‘Triwizard Shorenament’.The ‘muck-up day’ challenge manual that included instructions for students to have sex with a woman over 80kgs; aged over 40; or who was deemed to be a ‘3/10 or lower’.
The inquest into the 2018 murder by John Edwards of his two teenage children in suburban western Sydney has finally concluded after three harrowing weeks.
Each day has brought exasperating new evidence of how NSW authorities failed to spot warning signs that could have allowed them to prevent Edwards obtaining firearms and shooting his children Jack, 15, and Jennifer, 13, at their home in West Pennant Hills. The hearings have also been a rare opportunity for the wider community to see in detail how the normally confidential proceedings of the Family Court work.
As a middle class professional, Edwards was adept at manipulating the system. He tried to confuse Hornsby police in 2016 by warning them that his wife was likely to make false allegations of violence against him in order to win the battle in the Family Court.
The inquest heard evidence that because allegations of violence are made in 80 per cent of Family Court cases there was a perception among some police that the allegations were more “tactical than practical”.
Yet, given Edwards’ long police file with allegations from numerous complainants over a long period of time, it is surprising that police failed to look closely at the allegations.
In addition to this point, the coroner could also consider whether family law played a role in this tragedy. Despite his long history of bad behaviour, the Family Court made an initial order that Edwards be given access to his children because under current law there is a presumption of equal shared responsibility during custody proceedings. The inquest heard that the children did not attend scheduled meetings with their father, because they and Olga feared for their safety.
But the death of the Edwards’ children shows the awful consequences when well founded allegations are dismissed. More must be done to tilt the balance in favour of women and children victims.
Women, even at their most difficult, do not cause the same kind of problems that arise as a result of men’s presence in women’s shelters. Women do not treat other women the way men treat women. Women do not do to other women what men do to women.
As long as a man claims that he is a woman, our doors are open to him.
Some of the men who stay at the shelter seem harmless enough. They get along with the women; they’re good-natured, respectful, they cause no major problems and the women, for the most part, have no problem sharing space with them.
Other men I would not call harmless.
One man leered at women and trailed them through the shelter, his shorts manifesting the tangible proof of his interest, such that women stopped wearing pajamas outside the bed area in order to avoid attracting his roving eye. Another man would wait in the bathroom to be alone with a woman and then proposition her, on the off chance that she might be raring to give him a blowjob. We hosted a man who would stare and wink at younger female caseworkers; he would summon his target away from the desk on the pretense of helping him with some invented task, and then, when he had her cornered in a more private alcove, invite her to meet him outside the shelter for dates.
In another case, women complained that a man was watching pornography on his cellphone and visibly masturbating in the bed area at night.
On at least three occasions, men staying at the women’s shelter threatened to kill women with guns. Once, a man, enraged at female staff for insisting that he adhere to shelter rules, stormed into the kitchen during dinner, grabbed a tray of food, and began hurling handfuls of scalloped potatoes around the room while yelling that we were all “bitches” and “cunts.”
When women report harassment by men in the shelter space, or approach staff to voice their discomfort, my coworkers’ customary response is to ignore the women’s reports completely.
[I]n order to conform to the caprices of the trending ideology, to be squeaky-clean on-message good progressives, to be caring and sensitive politically savvy good feminists, it is now shelter policy that we prioritize protecting men’s delusions, even if that means we can no longer protect women. Women are well accustomed to making sacrifices for the sake of men’s comfort and feelings.
Everywhere, all the time, men come first. How foolish we would have to be, then, to expect it might be any different at a women’s shelter.
Dr Williams is urging the New South Wales Government to adopt a concussion protocol for family and domestic violence victims.
“I recently asked an emergency doctor about it and they said, ‘We don’t have specific protocol for those women, true, but we have to have one for sports people because they are very likely to go back out on to the field and are likely to be in a high-risk situation again’.
“I said, ‘Well, you are sending these women back home to their abusers aren’t you?’ and there was a pin-drop silence.”
- Woman (sic) has been charged with torturing and then killing a friends dog in Sydney
- Olivia Sindel, 24, allegedly beat the dog before slashing bull terrier across neck
- Accused of fleeing the scene before being tracked down in the city 15 hours later
- Court heard Sindel was having ‘significant issues’ due to gender re-assignment
- Had to be sedated upon arrest as she was slamming her head, the court heard
There are growing calls for a Queensland police officer who leaked a domestic violence victim’s address to her ex-partner to be sacked, after a judge downgraded his sentence.
On Saturday, the group Doctors Against Violence Towards Women launched a petition calling on Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carrol to fire Punchard.
In 2014, Punchard accessed two separate police computer systems to find the address of the Gold Coast woman and then gave it to his friend, her ex-partner – who was later convicted of domestic violence offences.
The ex-partner, who later fled to Greece, threatened to kill his former wife and strap bombs to their children.
Queensland University of Technology professor and domestic violence expert Kerry Carrington said Punchard’s case was “just the tip of the iceberg” in terms of issues with how police treat domestic violence victims.
Defunding the domestic violence part of the police force and creating a specialised structure would be the best way to achieve necessary change, she said.
“Everything we’re doing is not working. The main problem, primarily, is the police. They’ve become the gatekeepers,” Professor Carrington said.
“We need to create a completely new police force that deals with domestic gender violence, exactly like what Argentina did.”
Having specialised police stations staffed by women who are trained in responding to the complex issue of family violence in a holistic way that involves social workers, child care and psychologists, would help to solve Australia’s family violence problem, Professor Carrington said.